A history of the Royal Society Exhibition

The exhibition has changed somewhat since the 1660s...
20 July 2021

Interview with 

Keith Moore, The Royal Society


an old style alarm clock, faded with time


For the rest of the show this week we’re going behind the scenes of the Royal Society’s Summer Science Exhibition which has been happening online this year - because of Covid... The Royal Society was established in 1660 by the acclaimed architect and astronomer Christopher Wren. It’s the oldest national scientific institution in the world, and exists to promote, fund, and advise on scientific matters. Although for many years its meetings took place behind closed doors, it later started putting on shows and demonstrations for the public of the latest scientific research, which would have been quite a spectacle at the time, as we heard from chief librarian, Keith Moore...

Keith - I would have loved to have gone to a 19th Century Royal Society exhibition. The place would have been fizzing with floral displays, displays of electricity...great scientists were there - so you might have talked to Michael Faraday or James Clerk Maxwell. And the exhibits were very eclectic, so yes there was great science there, but you might also have seen art by the latest pre-raphaelite painters or materials sent to the Royal Society from all parts of the world - so rough diamonds, rubies, manufactures of different countries, it generally was a mixed bag of things. So the great scientists of the Royal Society we’ve all heard of, people like Issac Newton, Benjamin Franklin, Howard Florey in the 20th century, Albert Einstein was a foriegn member. And it’s surprising how many of these people exhibited at the summer science exhibitions. Alexander Fleming, who developed penicillin, showed his early research at the Royal Society just after the first world war. So some very famous people have showed their science, and the summer science exhibition continues in that tradition.


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